Aside from grilled lamb chops, another popular dish is leg of lamb usually flavored rosemary and garlic. If you’re expecting a large number of guests over for lunch or dinner, impress them by serving a roast a whole leg of lamb with tarragon-mint butter.
Start with a good piece of meat. Go to your trusted meat vendor if possible. When buying from a fresh meat market, check the color of the meat to gauge its freshness. Fresh lamb is pink or reddish in color and not too dark which indicates that it’s a more mature animal and may not be too tender. Buy the best you can afford – USDA Prime has the best quality in terms of tenderness and flavor. USDA Choice is suitable as well for roasting as the cooking process tenderizes the meat.
Tarragon combined with mint makes for a great bouquet of spring flavors ideal for a hearty dinner. When preparing this dish, take the extra step to prepare side dishes like a nice fresh salad or bouquet of spring vegetables. Depending on your expected number of guests, choose an appropriate size of lamb as you do not want people to go hungry or without a second helping if they want.
First off, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and position a sturdy rack which can hold the leg of lamb in the bottom portion of the oven. Proceed to prepare a savory herb butter by combining unsalted butter with chopped tarragon, mint, sea salt and a splash of tarragon vinegar. Retain a portion of it should you wish to make a vegetable side dish using the same flavors.
Using a sharp knife, make one inch incisions on the trimmed leg and insert strips of orange peel. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat some oil in large heavy oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb all over until browned on all sides. This takes about ten minutes depending on the size of the meat. Transfer the skillet to the oven (or transfer to a baking dish if your pan is not oven proof. Brush the meat liberally with the softened herb butter and roast for about 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. The lamb is done when a meat thermometer shows inserted registers 135°F to 140°F for medium-rare. Again this depends on the size of the lamb. Once cooked, cover lightly with aluminum foil and let rest for about half an hour prior to carving.
Make the fat and caramelized juices into a rich gravy by adding some wine and broth and bringing this to a boil scraping the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Mix in the remaining herb butter and more orange peel. Taste and adjust the flavoring with salt and pepper as needed.
There are countless ways to make a ham with a whole pork leg usually being the most popular. There’s something about having a ham on the table during special occasions like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas that makes the celebration more complete. It’s an impressive dish large enough to serve as the centerpiece of the table.
For the Easter holiday, why not go for something a bit different and prepare a tropical glazed ham with curried pineapple chutney? This will surely impress your family and friends especially those not used to these flavors in their ham. It’s not as difficult as you think as you’ll be starting off with a cooked ham. It’s perfectly alright to purchase a large leg as the leftovers can be used for a lot of other dishes like sandwiches, salad, fried rice or noodles. Make sure the ham you buy will fit comfortable inside your oven though!
Position a rack on the bottom part of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Score a diamond pattern all over the rind of the ham in one inch gaps between the lines. Stick a whole clove on each intersection and roast the ham for two hours then reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Continue cooking it until a golden crust develops which takes about an hour.
To make the tropical glaze, mix together mango nectar, apricot preserve, minced peeled fresh ginger, grated lemon and lime peel, some coriander and a splash of fresh lime juice. Simmer this for about 15 minutes in a sauce pan over low heat until the glaze thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Once the ham is nice and golden, carefully take this out of the oven (careful because it’s heavy) and using a pastry brush, apply the glaze gently all over the ham. Return to the oven and roast for about 30 minutes until the glaze caramelizes . Serve with store bought or homemade curried pineapple chutney on the side.
A steak meal in an all American family restaurant isn’t complete without a generous serving of mashed potatoes. If Asia has its rice and noodles and Italiy has its pasta, Americans got to have potatoes with their meal whether is baked, made into French fries or mashed to creamy goodness with butter.
Rather than make it from instant mixes which may have a lot of artificial ingredients, colorings and flavorings, make your own at home with easy to find and inexpensive ingredients. No matter what instant mashed potato mix manufacturers say, nothing compares to the freshly made kind especially if the recipes is certified delicious!
To make whipped potatoes with herbs, peel and quarter quite a lot of russet potatoes. You can leave the skin on if you’re lucky to find organically grown potatoes. A lot of the fiber and nutrition is in the skin so keep it on if you’re sure of the source. Boil the potatoes and some garlic in salted water until fork tender. Depending on the size of the cubes, this will take about 30 minutes. Drain well on a kitchen towel then return the potatoes and garlic in the pot. Mash this with a fork then continue beating with a hand held electric mixer until smooth. You can do this in a food processor as well. Add the butter and continue beating until smooth. At this point, you may opt to add some sour cream as well if desired. Increase the speed and continue beating until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Finally, stir in your favorite herbs, like basil, parsley, chives, rosemary and thyme. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve hot together with your entrees. It goes well with most grilled or roasted meat and poultry dishes.
You may notice that there will be some flecks from the herbs and pepper as well as the skins if you decided to keep them on.
When one hears of a garland, thoughts of a Hawaiian luau come to mind. But in the spring, instead of flowers around the neck of a person, a garland is better used to describe the fresh vegetables accompanying a hefty piece of cooked meat like a whole roast leg of lamb or a turkey.
If you happen to be making another festive spring dish of roast lamb or roast turkey or chicken, you can use the flavored herb butter and create an accompanying vegetable dish in very little time. After paying close attention to the roasting meat, occasionally basting it with herb butter to prevent drying it out, one should spend time on the accompaniments. After all, the finest of roast meat and steaks should ideally be eaten with a vegetable and/or starchy component.
Like the colors of a flower garland, different vegetables like carrots, turnips and fresh peas literally recreate the colors of spring on a dish. Start off by blanching sliced carrots and turnips boiling salted water for about two minutes. Add fresh shelled peas and cook until all vegetables are just tender. Other colorful ingredients that are appropriate include squash, sweet potatoes and of course different kinds of pumpkin.
Note the different cooking times of the different veggies considering how small they’ve been cut up. Toss in some herb butter, tarragon and mint until the butter melts and heats through and through. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste and lay the vegetables around lamb and presto–you’ve gotten yourself a bouquet of spring veggies to go along with roast meat, pizza or pasta.
Some countries do not have a spring season like hot tropical countries with only a wet and dry season. However, this recipe can be used and serve with popular Asian dishes as well.
In your next family gathering or office potluck party, instead of serving the expected potato dish of French fries, baked or mashed potatoes, why not give it a twist? A literal twist of lemon can surely impress your guests with little effort and cost. Roasting potatoes with lemons and select herbs and spices will yield a totally different dish an unmistakably Mediterranean feel.
To start with, select quality potatoes suitable for roasting. Opt for large potatoes which need to be cubed peeled or unpeeled. When retaining the skin, it’s recommended to purchase organically grown so there’s no risk of chemical fertilizers or pesticides remaining in the dish.
Before starting, fire up your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As with baking, preheating the oven is an important step usually forgotten by most cooks which can seriously affect your dish. Mix together some vegetable oil, melted butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic and dill. Season this with salt and pepper. Toss in the cubed potatoes ensuring all pieces are coated well. Spread the potatoes evenly on a baking sheet with no pieces sticking or on top of one another. Drizzle the remaining flavored oil on the potatoes. Bake until the potatoes are brown and crispy. This will take about 45 minutes.
To make the dish more appealing, use different kinds of potatoes. There are a lot of colors available in large markets – red, white and purple. When using these beautiful tubers, it is better to cut them in wedges rather than in cubes. This showcases the colors better. Adjust the cooking time as the potatoes have been cut in larger pieces. Flavorwise, instead of cooking oil and butter, extra virgin olive oil can be used for a more authentic Mediterranean flavor.
Lemon roasted potatoes go well with a lot of dishes from roast meats to fried fish and seafood.
Frozen puff pastry dough is an invention that’s made it easy for inexperienced cooks aspiring to be gourmet chefs to prepare impressive baked dishes with little effort. For those familiar with how puff pastry is prepared, there is something to be said with the delicate texture that spells hours of rolling out butter in cold dough over and over to layer the fat and result in the buttery flaky pastry.
Modern day technology has allowed puff pastry to be simple purchased from the frozen section of the supermarket, rolled out and assembled into a variety of sweet and savory baked goods. It usually comes in a packages containing folded thing sheets of dough that are brushed with butter or olive oil, topped or layers with anything from fresh or cooked fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, optionally brushed with egg wash then baked.
Bake asparagus and mushroom tarts in the springtime when these produce are in abundance, affordable and at optimal nutritional levels. When using fresh asparagus, purchase those that are the same size so they cook evenly. For stems that are too thick, these can be peeled or sliced for faster cooking. Like most vegetables, the les done it is, the more nutrients are retained, especially heat sensitive enzymes.
This recipe for asparagus and mushroom tarts presents hearty vegetables, creamy ricotta cheese on a crusty base. The recipes can be modified to make it completely vegan by substituting the ricotta cheese with a soy based cheese.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Thaw and roll out the dough into a 10x14 inch rectangle and lay this out on a baking sheet. Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
While the dough bakes, make the ricotta filling by mixing ricotta cheese with salt, pepper, basil and olive oil. Spread this on top of the slightly cooled baked tart and arrange it with asparagus and sliced mushrooms. Be creative in arranging the vegetables. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and bake for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still firm. Slice with a serrated knife and serve hot.
The recipe can be modified to use other fresh vegetables or another variety of mushrooms like shitake. The puff pastry can be replaced with another base like filo pastry or bread cups.
Octopus is one of the types of seafood that rather intimidates a homemaker who’s not familiar with this tasty bounty of the ocean. It is actually a very popular seafood consumed in many Mediterranean and Asian countries where large quantities are caught. It’s still quite a way to go before octopi becomes a regular fare in the United States and United Kingdom where it still raises some eyebrows when served in specialty restaurants.
Chopped up and cooked, one may not realize that he is consuming octopus as it looks like more acceptable and widely consumed squid. However the miniature baby octopi are served whole, then there might be mixed reactions ranging from wonderment to disgust.
If you are lucky to be able to source fresh octopus from your fish monger (you may have to order this ahead of time), you may want to keep it simple, squeeze some lemon to eliminate any fishiness and accentuate with the flavors of the Mediterranean.
Do note that it has the tendency to toughen up when improperly cooked so be extra careful. It is recommended to tenderize it much like a beef steak before cooking it. Freeze the octopus a couple of days before cooking it. Alternatively, boil the meat for an hour or two before flavoring it.
Another way to tenderize octopus actually doubles as anger management therapy! People in the Mediterranean actually beat the octopus on hard surfaces as soon as these are caught supposedly to make it more tender when cooked.
To cook the popular dish of grilled octopus with gigante beans and oregano, it is recommended to use the large variety with large tentacles rather than the baby variety. Season the cut up meat with salt and pepper then pan fry in oil over medium high heat until it releases most of its liquids. Allow this to evaporate uncovered for about 20 minutes turning occasionally to cook evenly. At this point, you may wonder where the grilling comes in.
Prior to firing up the grill however, the octopus needs to be cooked further on the stove top. In the same pot, add red wine, coarsely chopped onion, garlic, a stick of cinnamon bark and a bay leaf or two. Reduce the heat and simmer until the octopus is fork tender. This can take up to two hours. Drain off the liquid and remove the onions, cinnamon and bay leaf. Pat dry with a paper towel and take off the skin if preferred.
Now comes the grilling part! Cut the body and tentacles crosswise into half an inch thick strips and brush with a little bit of olive oil. Season again with salt and pepper and grill about two minutes per side or until grill marks are formed. Once all the pieces are cooked, toss them in olive oil, red wine vinegar, and oregano.
The gigante beans simply are a base to carry the flavors of the octopus. Soak overnight and boil in salted water until desired tenderness. Serve in a bowl topped with the octopus.
If you want to impress friends with a dish that’s both reasonably inexpensive, easy to prepare and healthy, try your hands at making a delicious zucchini keftedes with feta and dill. Sounds fancy? It’s actually not once you realize that it is actually simply Greek for meatballs.
But this particular recipe is actually completely vegetarian with grated zucchini as the main ingredient with egg, cheese and coarse breadcrumbs for texture and binding. Though it’s not as filling as real thing, it certainly adds a different twist to ordinary meatballs and a lot healthier to boot!
Take good amount of fresh green or yellow zucchinis coarsely grated, slightly salt them with kosher salt. Let this stand for a maximum of one hour and squeeze as much of the liquid that’s drawn out from the vegetable. Use a clean cheesecloth or towel for this purpose.
Flavor the zucchini with minced green onions, dill, mint, garlic, lemon peel, and teaspoon black pepper. Go easy on the salt as the zucchini will still have some saltiness to it from the previous step. Bind the mixture with coarse breadcrumbs, egg and crumbled feta cheese. Make sure to combine all the ingredients well to distribute all the flavors evenly.
Either with a large slotted spoon or a 1/8 measuring cup, take a large dollop of the mixture and form into patties much like a small hamburger. Place the patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. This step is actually better done ahead of time so the patties will hold better before frying in cooking oil.
Though you may be tempted to use olive oil to fry with, it not advisable to do so as olive oil is not recommended for deep frying due to its lower flashpoint where it starts to smoke and burn the food easily. Use canola or any vegetable oil instead in a large deep skillet with about a quarter inch depth of oil. Be careful to keep the temperature of the oil just hovering over medium-high to yield perfectly cooked through golden brown keftedes.
Arrange keftedes on platter, topped with spoonful of Greek yogurt if you are lucky to find this healthier, thicker variety in your supermarket. To make it even more attractive, use a colorful ceramic serving dish and sprinkle some dill on top.
Nowadays, the celebration of St. Patrick's Day revolves more around the festivities and not so much anymore the religious commemoration of how the saint selflessly worked on converting the pagan Irish centuries past.
Though some religious folk would still go to church in the morning, the drinking, dancing and feasting on food and drink in the afternoon are the events that are more looked to as these are opportunities to revel with friends in a rambunctious atmosphere where people can drink until they drop.
Aside from shepherd’s pie, various potato dishes, beer, Irish bread, whisky and coffee, consumed during St. Patrick’s Day corned beef (with or without cabbage) is one of the most popular foods enjoyed in many parts of the world.
Quite surprisingly however, corned beef isn’t an Irish dish and can hardly be seen in St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Dublin. It actually traces its roots to the first generation of Irish who settled in the United States who were longing for the food of their native country. Trying to recreate their favorite boiled bacon from the limited resources they had, they boiled until tender the cheapest cut of meat they could buy–beef brisket. The brining of the meat was an adaptation of other countries method of preserving the meat and doesn’t actually have anything to do with corn.
Many years later, corned beef still remains as a staple food not only amongst settlers in the United States but has gone on to become one of the most popular dishes served anytime of the year aside from St. Patrick’s Day.
Making it into quesadillas is a great way to use leftovers as the shredded pieces of meat are combined with cheese and sauerkraut and grilled thereby transforming it into a kid-friendly treat. It’s actually a pretty healthy dish complete with protein from the beef, carbohydrates from the tortillas, calcium from the cheese, fiber and other nutrients from the fermented cabbage.
Do not attempt to use the left over beer and alcohol to concoct a kid-friendly drink though!
For people not at all exposed to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, their knowledge is most likely limited to images and various sound bites of the various activities (not necessarily religious) observed across the world.
And for those who do celebrate it yearly, particularly in countries where the significant populations of the Irish have settled such as Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, the activities are more celebratory in nature with parades and festivals held in public areas and restaurants, hotels and country clubs organizing events to attract both locals and tourists.
In all of these events, green is the clearly the most visible underlying theme of the celebrations held and food consumed. Though the appearance of green beer, cakes, pretzels can certainly turn off some people, it’s only from food coloring and its significance traces its roots to how Saint Patrick was said to have used a shamrock or leaf of clover to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans in the 17th century. Thus, the shamrock and the color green became the most popular imagery during St. Patrick’s Day.
With a clearer understanding of this, one doesn’t mind anymore eating green food associated with St. Francis’ Day.
One of the most popular foods consumed is the little lucky whoopie pies that resemble a stuffed chocolate cookie sandwich with a creamy frosting in the middle. Make your own from scratch or your favorite instant cookie or cake batter and stuff it with a sweet butter or cream cheese filling colored green with an optional drop or two of mint extract. Accent it with green candies or candy sprinkles.
If you do not wish use artificial coloring in your food, try natural green colorants instead such as spirulina, a kind of algae that a little quantity of is enough to color any food or beverage a deep green color. It confers a lot of nutrients as well.
Aside from the adult festivities and drinking sprees, St. Patrick’s Day is also a great time of year for whole communities to celebrate togetherness and family ties.
Aside from the many desserts such as cakes and pies flavored with Irish crème liqueur, cookies are a great option to give out to children. Mini-cookies, cookie bites, nibbles and morsels are all just different names on how these baked treats are made into smaller bite sized portions which can be presented in a basket or box.
It’s so easy to theme pastries to go with the season. Similar to the yuletide season which has a certain flavor and mood to it, St. Patrick’s Day edibles are easily noticeable by the sheer greenness of them. Turn any recipe to a St. Patrick’s Day treat by adding a few drops of green food coloring to your favorite cooking dough or cake batter recipes.
Presenting different pastries in a smaller size allows you to make more kinds and a wider variety. Adding some mint extract to the dough or batter or real mint leaves in the icing also adds a different touch to any cookie recipe. For busy moms on the go, they can opt for any of the instant cookie dough available in the frozen section of large supermarkets. Instead of portioning it according to package instructions, divide it by two or more to make smaller sized nibblers. Make sure to adjust the baking time as smaller cookies will surely cook a lot faster.
Simple butter or sugar cookies can be colored with a few drops of green food color and cut into fun clover- or leprechaun hat shapes. For cookie recipes like chocolate and ginger bread, if the dough is already dark and green food color may not work, sprinkle them with green and white candy toppings instead. Another option is to top them with a simple icing tinged green with a bit of food color.
Hosts and restaurant owners take into consideration not just the food and the taste. Even the table setting becomes an art form on its own. The table napkin has not only served its purpose of wiping excess food on the lips. It has now become a small piece of art welcoming a crowd of diners as you sit down for dinner. These table napkins are folded in various ways, usually in attractive shapes, flowers, animals, and other amusing shapes with just a fold and tuck. It’s actually very interesting to see the table linen shaped like a flower or swan welcoming you for dinner.
Folded napkins also serve the purpose of storing silverware in a prettier way. Not only do they serve as keeping utensils, but the utensils also help in preventing the napkins from flying off when a strong gust of wind approaches. Remember, napkins are usually made of light material, such as paper and cloth. If the event is outdoors, say a garden wedding, lunch, or afternoon barbecue, a little weight from silverware may help keep them in place and prevent unnecessary chasing of that cloth swan folded in place.
Napkins also come in paper or cloth. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Cloth does not tear as easily as paper, and may be used throughout the entire meal and absorbs liquid better. Paper of course, is more convenient for picnics and fast foods. They also prove to be more cost-efficient in some diners as there’s no need for additional laundry costs. There is also the option of being stiffer than paper so they can be folded into a lot more shapes.
Cloth and paper napkins come in a lot of swatches or colors. Even basic white has variants like ecru, ivory, cream, and bone. Red, pink, or blue, and other colored and printed napkins may be used for themed parties or may be matched with the restaurant’s interior. Attractive napkin rings may be purchased to keep them in place, and in weddings and parties, they may also be used as giveaways. The shape of the napkin when folded may also be themed according to the occasion, such as flowers and hearts for Valentine’s Day, animals for a children’s party, and so on.
Various tutorials online as well as books are available for those who would like to learn a few shapes to do in the next dinner party. You don’t have to own a five-star restaurant to be able to make a table setting just a little more special.
Everyone’s heard of ice cream, sherbets, sorbets, frozen yoghurt–popular icy dessert confections made with varying amounts of milk (or none at all) flavored with chocolate, fruits and many other ingredients. But what is frozen cream? Is it a kind of food or an ingredient?
To the ordinary layman and maybe even novice chefs unfamiliar with dairy or dessert terminology, frozen cream could be taken for ordinary cream that is frozen. A quick online search for the exact words will not yield much formal explanation on this exact product and direct the searcher to lots of information about ice cream.Read more...
There’s one site that describes frozen sweet cream as an additive-free product made from pasteurizing then freezing cream that is separated from fresh whole milk. The resulting product is a white creamy homogenous liquid that is free from any visible fat. This is probable not produced in large quantities in most countries as cream is a dairy product doesn’t hold well to freezing temperature. Another possible reason is that plain cream not that difficult to produce, store and use. In fact, there’s so many different kinds available with vary amounts of fat and some do not even need refrigeration–as in the case of canned cream.
Pasteurization is a process of subjecting foods to high temperature for a prescribed amount of time to kill off potentially harmful microorganisms and extend shelf life. Unpasteurized products, usually juices and dairy products, just stay fresh for a few hours if not kept in the refrigerator or freezer. Unfortunately, for raw foodists, the high temperature compromises health benefits such as heat sensitive phytonutrients and enzymes. An alternative treatment done by some companies and homemakers, particularly for raw milk is to ferment it with different cultures of beneficial microorganisms that increase the good bacteria and kill off the bad.
Sour cream, a high-fat product made from the fermentation of regular cream by some strains of Lactobacillus bacteria, can be frozen to extend its shelf life but this will affect the texture of the product after thawing–it will separate and not have the same creamy texture as the original. It still has the beneficial bacteria and health benefits but should be used in recipes wherein the texture is not important.
Ice cream and other frozen confections are a different story as the dairy ingredients, namely milk and cream with varying amounts of fat, are usually combined with other ingredients that act as emulsifiers and stabilizers which, as their names suggest, act to keep the resulting product smooth and creamy despite being frozen.
There are many ways to improve your cooking skills: reading great cookbooks, taking cooking classes, and good old fashioned practice in the kitchen are traditional methods. But these days, online cooking recipe videos are another excellent resource for aspiring chefs. Here's how to get the most from the cooking videos you encounter.
There are lots of cooking recipe videos out there, but not all are created equal. Before you spend time watching any, consider the source. If you want to widen your cooking horizons, videos featuring famous chefs are a must. Such chefs might include television personalities (who may or may not have formal cooking backgrounds), cooking legends (like Julia Child, Graham Kerr, and Wolfgang Puck), or Michelin star-awarded chefs who've impressed the cooking world with their expertise and talent.
Once you find cooking recipe videos by esteemed chefs, you will probably discover you learn the most if you watch the videos more than once. In the first viewing, you'll likely only get the overall picture of what the chef is doing. If you watch the video once or twice more, you may notice and remember details you didn't before.
Bear in mind that you're not just learning how to make a particular recipe. You're also hoping to learn cooking techniques you can rely upon for other dishes. For example, you might see a Michelin chef chop up food in a faster, simpler way than you've ever seen before. Or you might see how a meal is flambéed. Or you might learn a new way to cook meat so it's crisp on the outside and tender and juice on the inside. There is nothing quite like a live demo, to make those techniques stick in your brain and come to life next time you are in the kitchen.
Although cooking recipe videos are helpful and educational, they're also fun. You can make them even more entertaining by sharing them with friends. What does your best friend think about trying to make a flambéed meal with you? Does she have a funny story to tell about attempting this on her own? Does your work mate drool over gourmet desserts as much as you do? Are you and your friends inspired by a certain video to try a pot luck gourmet party? Let cooking videos be part of you and your friends online entertainment, and you'll have fun while you improve your cooking skills.
Try it Out
After watching cooking recipe videos, it's a great idea to make the recipes in your own kitchen. The best cooking video websites also have printed recipes to go along with their videos. Print one out and give the recipe your best go.
Or, you could just try out one or two techniques you learned by watching a great chef. For example, maybe you've never tried blanching vegetables before. After watching a chef demonstrate this on a video, you can try the technique almost any time you're preparing veggies.
Perhaps all cook have, at one time or another, chosen cooking recipes an hour before dinner time and started cooking only to discover they don't have all the necessary ingredients or equipment. But when you find yourself doing this frequently, or if you find time in the kitchen leads mostly to frustration, it's time to get back to basics.
Here's how to make the most of cooking recipes, ensuring success every time.
Step 1: Choosing and Reading Cooking Recipes
Begin by selecting a recipe from a trusted source. That could be a cookbook by a favorite chef, a family member who is a great cook, or a quality website like Gourmandia.com.
Next, sit down and read the recipe. All the way through. Notice how much time it takes to prepare the dish. Should any part of the dish be prepared a day or more ahead of time? How long will prep and cooking take? Do you have all the ingredients on hand, or do you need to go shopping before you start cooking? Do you have all the necessary equipment? Do you understand all the cooking techniques?
If a cooking recipe doesn't explain a technique you're unfamiliar with, take the time to do an Internet search before you begin cooking. There are many excellent online resources for learning cooking techniques.
Step 2: Be Prepared
Before you begin cooking, set out all the tools and equipment you'll need, from mixing bowls and spoons to plastic wrap and mixers. Next, set out all the ingredients, except those that need to stay frozen or refrigerated. In addition, if any equipment needs prepping, (for example, the oven needs preheating), now's the time to do it.
Step 3: Prep
Prepping ingredients ahead of time makes cooking much more stream lined. So before you do anything else, wash and pat dry the produce, dice the onions, slice the vanilla pods, measure the flour, and do any other prep work the ingredient list and recipe calls for. If the recipe divides any ingredients, now's the best time to do that, too. For example, the recipe might call for 1 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar. To divide the ingredients so cooking can go more smoothly, place 1 measured cup of sugar in one bowl and 3 tablespoons in another.
Step 4: Cooking
All that's left to do is follow the step-by-step instructions given in the cooking recipe. Your preparation from reading up on unfamiliar cooking techniques, to ensuring you have all the ingredients ready and prepped, to having the oven fully preheated will pay off now, making cooking fun, easy, and stress-free.
P.S. Playing with Recipes
There's absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with cooking recipes. This could mean something as simple as replacing a single spice called for in cooking recipes, or it could mean something as elaborate as creating a recipe from scratch. Just remember it can take at least several tries to get a recipe from scratch just right.
Although many people think gourmet cooking can't also be easy cooking, they are wrong. Gourmet cooking is primarily about using high quality, fresh ingredients combined with superior cooking techniques. A great many gourmet meals are actually quite easy and quick to cook.
So what do you do when you need fast, fun, delicious gourmet meals when you have little time to cook? Read on!
For future easy cooking, chefs should learn to freeze food. For example, next time you cook up chicken breasts for a meal, cook double. Allow the extra to cool, then pop it into a freezer bag. Then, next time you need chicken for a recipe, you can just toss the frozen chicken in the microwave or directly into the pan. What a time saver!
You can do this with nearly any kind of food. For example, if you're cooking a meal with beans, cook up the whole bag of dried beans and freeze the leftovers for future meals. Some meals (like soups, stews, and casseroles) are also excellent candidates for freezing, making a quick dinner literally a few minutes away.
For information on how to freeze nearly any type of food, from eggs to whipped cream, The National Center for Home Food Preservation website is an excellent resource. (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html)
Recipe selection naturally plays a big part in how fast and easy meals come together. For best results, avoid recipes requiring lots of preparation or in-the-kitchen cooking time. (Most recipes include estimations for each of these.) It's also wise to reserve recipes with unfamiliar cooking techniques for days when you have more time to linger and experiment in the kitchen.
Mise En Place
Save time and make cooking more speedy by preparing everything in advance. Before you begin cooking, wash and cut up all produce, and measure out all the ingredients. Professional chefs swear by this technique (http://lifestyle.gourmandia.com/community/blog/?p=253), which goes by the French name mise en place. (http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/entry/?id=3523)
Keep it Simple
The essence of fast and easy cooking is keeping it fun and simple. That means choosing wholesome, simpler foods. A good way to do this is to first select a meat, poultry, or seafood as the centerpiece of the meal. Next, select a side dish. Finally, select a quick dessert. For example, you might choose fish as the main ingredient for dinner. Royal Sea Bream with Sichuan Sauce (http://www.gourmandia.com/video-recipes-cooking-videos/royal-sea-bream-with-a-sechuan-pepper-sauce ), a simple and free recipe, is a good choice, then. As a side, you could simply steam some fresh vegetables, or you could make easy and quick polenta. (http://www.gourmandia.com/video-recipes-cooking-videos/polenta) Then you could end the meal with a delicious baked fruit, like Pear with Wine (http://www.gourmandia.com/video-recipes-cooking-videos/pear-with-wine-vanilla-ice-cream-and-pepper). Fast. Easy. And gourmet!
Among all the countless varieties of sweet confections enjoyed by billions of people worldwide, it is most likely chocolate in its many forms, shapes, sizes, flavors and textures the most popularly purchased and consumed confection given as gifts. The number one occasion where chocolate is given as gifts would be Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February where couples of all ages, genders, nationalities and denominations go out on a romance-filed dinner and give each other gifts.
There’s so many varieties of chocolate, manufactured by hundreds of companies all over the world even though the raw material, the contents of the cacao pod, grows in only a select countries. Majority of the cacao is manufactured into cocoa butter and other forms which in turn become the primary raw material of chocolates. It is combined with milk, sugar and a multitude of flavors and transformed into decadent morsels of absolute delight available in bars of various sizes, pralines or truffles wrapped in foil, paper or packaged in elaborate boxes and arrangements.
Aside from the taste, there is actually something in its chemical composition that actually make it appropriate to be given during Valentine’s day. Historically, ancient Aztecs have consumed chocolate and have recorded the effect of its consumption to sexual desire. It is said that the emperor Montezuma consumed large amounts of cacao bean for the purpose of increasing his virility.
It is actually tryptophan and phenylethylamine, two chemicals found in chocolate associated with sexual arousal and stimulation that give it its reputation as a food for love.
However, most commercial varieties of chocolate have negligible amounts of these compounds and instead are primarily composed of milk and sugar. Nevertheless, the sweet taste and smooth mouth feel of chocolate that make its consumption very popular.
For the health buff, look for dark chocolate that have the highest cocoa content and has minimal sugar and milk. These deep dark bittersweet confections made by artisan chocolatiers as well as bigger companies have the most health benefits particularly its significant antioxidant content.
If your date loves fruits, then go for chocolate-dipped cherries or strawberries. Some say the berry-chocolate combination is actually romance inducing as both elements have aphrodisiac qualities.
Being a very special occasion, either for couples dating for the first time or husbands and wives who have been married for a long time, Valentine’s day is a time of the year where a meal, usually dinner, is given a lot more emphasis whether it is enjoyed in a restaurant of prepared at home–usually by the man.
Unlike celebrating the anniversary days when couples first met or were married, Valentine’s day is pegged on the 14th of February where restaurants, hotels and event organizers capitalize on marketing their menu offerings. They offer additional ala carte offerings, a lavish buffet or multi-course set menus complete with wine or even champagne. Bigger dining establishments even complement the food with entertainment. It is commonplace for tokens to be given away usually to the female after the meal. Chocolates or candy, flowers and even small perfume bottles are popular giveaways.
Now if you love to cook and have the time, resources and kitchen to prepare your own meal with the intention of impressing your date, then take some time to sit down and conceptualize your menu. It is always wise to have an overall theme that ties all the courses of your meal from appetizer, salad and/or soup, entrée and very importantly dessert. You may check out the offerings of well known restaurants or do a simple online search to get inspiration. Whatever recipe you end up using, purchase the best ingredients you can afford and take extra effort in presenting it attractively.
Depending on your skill in the kitchen, you can make each and every item as simple or as complicated as you wish. It is important to consider that even the simplest of dishes can be truly special. An example would a simple green salad with a classic dressing–make it more special by adding edible flowers of colorful fruit in the mix of green vegetables. For the main course, splurge a bit and grill up a fine marbled steak or exquisite fillet of fish like sea bass, gindara or salmon. Other popular dishes to consider with recipes abounding online or from your favorite cooking show is pasta. If you’re up for it, consider recipes that incorporate aphrodisiac ingredients such as oysters, strawberries or dark chocolate.
Regardless of the recipes you choose, do consider foods that you know your date will enjoy. Valentine’s day is perhaps not the best time to experiment with ingredients that you loved one may not like or is allergic to.